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Truett-McConnell College hires former Muslim as its president

POSTED: August 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Emir Caner

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Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland has named Emir Caner, a former Sunni Muslim who converted to Christianity, as its eighth president.

The Board of Trustees voted in favor of the selection in a meeting Friday.

Born of a Turkish father and Swedish mother, Caner was raised as a Muslim. Caner and his brother converted to Christianity in 1982 and were subsequently disowned by their family.

According to Edna Holcomb, the school’s dean of advancement support, Caner is believed to be the first former Muslim selected to lead a Southern Baptist School, Holcomb said. His brother, Ergun Caner, was the first former Muslim to be elected president of a seminary, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.

Many of those affiliated with the college expressed pleasure at Caner’s selection as president.

"It’s a great day in the life of Truett-McConnell College and Georgia Baptists," said Terrell J. Williams, chairman of the Truett-McConnell Board of Trustees. "The TMC Board of Trustees is extremely excited about the future of our school under the leadership of Dr. Emir Caner. We proudly welcome Dr. Caner and his family and look forward to working with him in the fall semester."

At 37, Emir Caner also is the youngest president the school has had since its inception in 1946, Holcomb said. She said Caner is very student-oriented and plans to have informal meetings with groups of students and faculty.

"He is a scholar and he also has a youthful energy and vitality that will be good for the school," Holcomb said.

Soon after meeting with the school’s faculty and staff Friday afternoon, Caner left campus to return home to Texas, Holcomb said. She said he seemed to be a hit with the faculty.

"He’s just addressed all the faculty and staff, and I believe everyone was extremely pleased," Holcomb said. "He is a very personable man and has a quite a sense of humor and is quite a scholar."

Caner has written or contributed to 16 books, including "Unveiling Islam," which won the Gold Medallion Award by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and "More Than a Prophet," a finalist for Book of the Year in Evangelism by Outreach magazine. In total, his books have sold more than 300,000 copies and have been translated into eight languages.

He received his bachelor of arts in Biblical studies from The Criswell College in Dallas, Texas; his master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and his doctor of philosophy from the University of Texas at Arlington.

He served previously in faculty and administrative positions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and in 2005 became the founding dean of the College at Southwestern, a division of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Caner officially will assume the role of president on Aug. 18, but his first day on campus likely won’t be until Aug. 20 because of scheduled meetings with other presidents of Baptist colleges, she said.

Caner is married to the former Hana Titerova, daughter of the general secretary of the Czech Baptist Union. They have three children: John Mark, 5, Daniela, 3, and Anna, 1.

The new president is expected to speak at the first chapel service after school begins Aug. 20, Holcomb said, as it is traditional for the president to greet the students each year. The school holds chapel services every Thursday while classes are in session.

The interim president of the college, Mike Simoneaux, will return to his previous position as vice president of academic services when Caner assumes the presidency. He served as interim president for about a year while the search was conducted.

"God’s leading is evident in the calling of Dr. Emir Caner as the new president of Truett-McConnell College," Simoneaux said. "I sincerely believe that Dr. Caner’s presidency will be characterized by unprecedented expansion of our student body, by strengthening our readiness to serve the Lord through Christian education, and by rapid growth of our financial resources."



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